Category: Be Present Empowerment Model

Song of Myself

By Ian Cardamone

I celebrate myself, and sing myself.

O early morning mist,

Billowing over the mountaintops

Take me back to the small coastal town.

When life was nothing more than imagination

When creativity ran wild and dreams leapt off dunes yelling “geronimo!”

O young surf-boarder, skateboarder, trampoline jumper,

Revitalize in me a free spirit.

O racing cars,

Rushing near the bay to unknown destinations

Take me back to the small apartment near the highway

Where my heart beat faster than the zooming machines.

Grab my hand and let me know that everything will be alright.

O becoming sketcher, filmmaker, worrier,

Remind me how to live passionately.

O bright lights,

Blinding me from what is right in front of me

Take me forward to a vibrant future

Where I am free from all restrictions and belong.

Allow me three breaths

As deep as the dark blue ocean

As calming as the embrace of a loved one.

As fulfilling as the creation of art,

O actor, dancer, music maker,

Become a man and sing of me.


A junior in High School, Ian recounts pivotal  moments throughout his life in the poem*. It reminds him to stay true to himself, even in the face of personal hardships and change. He encourages others to use art as a tool of self reflection as well because Ian has found it to be a useful way of “knowing oneself outside the distress of oppression”. His  participation with Be Present began in 2006 when he was 3 and continues to this day.







*Inspired by Walt Whitman’s poem of the same name.


Nasrah Smith: A 35-Year Legacy of Black Women’s Leadership

My ancestral line on both sides of my family are Native American, West Indian and African- American, kind of mixed all together. I am a traditional midwife of 35+ years assisting with delivering babies in homes with parents making informed decisions on how and where they wanted to birth their babies.

I do remember 35 years ago attending my first Black and Female Conference at Spelman College in 1983. The plan was we would expect at least 100 or 150 Black women at the most. There were over 1,500 women from all over the world that came.

I remember the one question Lillie asked and that was “What has it been like for you as a Black woman?” Read more

LaVerne A. Robinson: A 35-Year Legacy of Black Women’s Leadership

In 1986 I was a 33-year-old single parent and grandparent who was stressed out and emotionally and mentally in a crisis. I knew something fundamentally had altered me and I had to do something. Two significant life experiences caused my heart to hurt, be filled with disappointment and rage to the point of despair: My oldest daughter repeated the teenage pregnant cycle, birthing my first granddaughter. I walked off my job where I had personally experienced racism in the workplace. Now I had the increased responsibility of economically and emotionally supporting and nurturing three daughters and one granddaughter without a clue on how I was going to be able to provide all that they needed, with no job and no income.

I shut down emotionally and lost my voice.  Thank God I had a cousin who noticed something had happened to me because I was acting different.  She invited me and paid my registration fee to attend a retreat at Marin Headlands Institute in Sausalito CA, with all Black women, something she thought would help me. I took a huge risk – left my daughters and granddaughter for the first time and charged a bus ticket hoping it would be approved on an over the limit credit card. Even though I had emotionally shut down, I was silently praying and seeking help and a little voice inside of me said “go.”

May of 1986, in walks LaVerne to a room of all Black women, Read more